Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wi-Fi Watering Hole Update: Velocity Cafe Becomes Novel Cafe

A couple of years back, I blogged about the eclectically-decorated Velocity Cafe at 2127 Lincoln Boulevard (corner of Lincoln and Pacific) in Santa Monica. Apparently, according to this report (, in August of 2009 the original Novel Cafe on Pier Street in Santa Monica closed, due to a landlord-tenant dispute; and was reopened in place of the Velocity Cafe. I'm sitting there now typing these words. The new Novel Cafe ( features the same decor as the Velocity cafe (and, alas, the same slow service), but has added several Novel Cafe items to its menu. And, as before, the wall outlets are plentiful, and the Wi-Fi fast and free.

Box Office and Sports Records: Inflation and Steroids

An article in today's L.A. Times (,0,7457451.story) points out that, adjusted for inflation, AVATAR is far from the highest grossing, or even the top ten highest grossing, movies in history. GONE WITH THE WIND, with its various reissues, remains the top movie of all time adjusted for inflation, and may never be toppled from that perch. The reporter analogizes the boost increasing ticket prices give recent movies to recent sports records that, many suspect, become inflated as the athletes become inflated with "performance enhancers."

Google Book Settlement: Sledgehammer in a Publishing China Shop?

There are many things I like about Google. The company makes the operating system for my Droid phone and my Nook ereader. It provides a terrific search engine. It hosts the very blog on which I am typing these words. It provides all sorts of services and delights on its site. And its book project is making available on the web many old, out of print books that otherwise might age and crumble on library shelves, seen by few.

But I'm not sure I like Google's settlement of a class action brought on behalf of U.S. publishers and authors.

This past Thursday was the deadline for class members to opt out of the settlement; and according to this Associated Press article, (which, incidentally, I pulled up using the Google search engine), there are several objections, primarily about impact on competition and the edge the settlement will give to Google's monetized search engine.

Meanwhile, authors and illustrators have objected to the settlement. Graphic novelist Colleen Doran has raised concerns that the settlement's rules restricting online posting of books still in print apparently don't extend to graphic novels; that Google will be able to post illustrations online without the illustrators getting compensation; and that publishers will be able to post ereader versions of material without compensating the creators. See her posts at,, and Ursula K. LeGuin has filed a petition with the U.S. District Court judge who is overseeing the settlement ( and has resigned from the Authors Guild, stating as her reason the Guild's support for the settlement (

I have not read the settlement (and have little desire to do so; I've got enough legal work on my plate) and I'm not expressing any legal opinion about it. But my personal feeling is that the book market is in a precarious and transitional phase as it struggles to define its existence in a way that embraces the traditional paper book and electronic access. I question whether the Google Settlement is an attempt to address a delicate situation by slamming it with a sledgehammer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Latest on Gaiman

Today's L.A. Times features this interview of Neil Gaiman on subjects ranging from the Golden Globes to the passing of his father -- and the effect on his work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Anime Los Angeles 2010: Steampunk Perspectives

I didn't post a blog report on Anime Los Angeles 2010 (although I participated in a podcast about it at, so I'll post some retrospectives on the steampunk programming at the con, which included the two panels I was on. Both include pictures. (Dunno if this one will be accessible to the few folks who aren't on Facebook)

I look forward to next year's ALA (and all the conventions in between . . . .)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Missing the Point on Cameras in the Courtroom

Here's a classic example of a newspaper article that misses the point by ignoring the true issue. The L.A. Times's front-page article about the January 13, 2010 U.S. Supreme Court stay order concerning broadcast of the Prop 8 trial (,0,151791.story)states that the opinion is an expression of Supreme Court support for Prop 8 supporters. The actual order, however, ( indicates that the true issue is concerns about broadcast of federal trials in general.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There Ain't No Cure for the Avatar Blues?!

Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues -

Of all the false problems that people could whine about: Folks suffer post-"Avatar" depression.

Maybe I'm cynical, but I suspect this is more of a bid for attention than an actual DMS-III affliction.

My advice for people who yearn for the beauty of the images in "Avatar": Visit (or see footage of) a real rain forest. Travel to Washington State, or (if you can) Hawaii or another tropical place. Read some science fiction or comic books, and use your imagination. Just don't whine that reality wasn't created by James Cameron.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Tod!

Happy birthday to my cousin Tod Goldberg, who in my mind's eye is still the bright-eyed 12-year-old he was around, oh, 1983.
Celebrate Tod's birthday by picking up his short story collection OTHER RESORT CITIES, or one of his growing number of BURN NOTICE novels, at your local bookstore.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


In preparation for my participation in steampunk panels at next weekend's Anime Los Angeles, I've been compiling a list of steampunkesque anime and manga (without actually, y'know, doing research on the subject). Anyway, here is the list I came up with off the top of my head, and if anyone has any other suggestions, I'd welcome them:

Castle in the Sky: Laputa
Steam Detectives
Nadia: The Secret of Bluewater
Galaxy Express 999/Galaxy Railways
Sakura Wars
Last Exile
Robot Carnival (segment with Victorian English giant robot vs. Japanese giant robot)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee
Heat Guy J (just to the extent it features a steam-powered android)
Ponyo (specifically, Fujimoto, the 150-year-old undersea mad inventor)

I'm leaving out shonen series that have anachronistic mashups of technology with little rhyme or reason, such as OnePiece, Naruto, and Fairy Tail.


If UP IN THE AIR doesn't win one or more above-the-line Oscars -- particularly Best Adapted Screenplay -- somebody in the Academy is seriously out of touch.

UP IN THE AIR, like all good stories, is a tale about conflicts. Conflicts between the old and the new ways of doing business. Between electronic communication and personal interaction. Between isolation and family. Between the burden of being burdenless and the freedom gained by making a commitment. Between the goals we set for ourselves, what we really need, and what happens when the two collide. Between salemanship and sincerity, and the odd middle ground where we know we are being sold to but we go with it.

All that wrapped up in a very funny comedy that features lots of great scenery and George Clooney's dashing smile. (The guy really is the Cary Grant of our generation.) It's funny, but not at the expense of genuine emotional resonance.

I enjoyed AVATAR and SHERLOCK HOLMES quite a bit, but it's refreshing to see a movie made by and for grownups -- or rather, a good movie for grownups.